Category Archives: plans

coming home

When you hit nine months traveling, there is a moment. Waking up from a nap on a beach, looking up from a book at a café, shouting over the music at a club, when you forget—just for a groggy instant —what country you’re in.

And that’s when it’s time to go home.

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where the heart is

The other night I sat in a bungalow having drinks with three groups of good friends—who I met in three different countries—and I realized that I was the only common link between them. I have made so many lasting friends, brought so many people together, had so many adventures, shared space and stories over and over again. It makes the thought of going back to normal life seem almost impossible.

I’m coming up on eight months of travel, and my heart is full of these people that I met, that I love, that I’m always heartbroken to say goodbye to.

I am leaving Asia, actually following through on my original plan of heading back to Europe, and then starting to think about jobs and homes and stability for the fall—even toying with the idea of maybe going back into a classroom.

He tells me that my heart is not in Houston and that I won’t last long there, but I’m not so sure.

I started this trip to find meaning, and so far what I’ve found is that everything worthwhile comes from people. I’ve had mediocre days on gorgeous beaches and hilarious nights in cockroach infested hostels. I’ve found more spirituality in human kindness than in temples or churches and more culture in tiny wooden shacks than in expensive museums.

I’ve found that my heart is with these people, wherever they are. My heart is spread across the globe, and my home can be wherever I drop my backpack for the night.

So maybe my home will end up back where I started, but I’m contradicting myself now: I don’t think that’s a step backward. Even if nothing else has changed, as I look at the people around me, I know that I have.
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practical, emotional

One day on the Camino we talked about the top five qualities we would want in a significant other. Among the usual mix, practical comes up on my list of necessities. To balance me out, I explain.

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I have a standing offer to teach at the perfect school in Houston starting in August. No interview, no recertification, no need to even change grade level or subject area. It would allow me to continue traveling worry-free for the next three months, smooth over the curious yearlong gap in my resume, give me an immediate income, place me back in a city that I love, and give me a meaningful job.

I can’t find any practical negatives, but just thinking about it makes my stomach cringe. I feel like it’s a step backward, to a city far from family, to forgotten friendships, into a profession I wasn’t entirely satisfied with. And I can’t go back to teaching just because it’s the best alternative—kids deserve more than that and I’d rather spend all the rest of my money paying for my own health insurance than use kids like a backup plan. Then there’s the nagging fear that even if I go back and try my hardest, that I won’t be a good enough teacher. I’ve never worked at a school this good, and I’m terrified I’d be exposed as the mediocre teacher I probably am and let everyone down anyway.

I don’t know if I can do it.

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I think I want to go to Myanmar as my last stop in Southeast Asia. I say think, because I’m not even sure if I really want to, or if I just think I’m supposed to want to since this—only a few years after they’ve opened their border to tourists—is the time to do it.

It would mean another stop in Bangkok getting a visa, a fairly expensive flight both in and out of the country, and much more research since there is no well-worn path to follow or many friends to ask. Pairing up with another American girl I met would share the stress, but that would require waiting two extra weeks, with nothing else left I want to see.

Tell me, what is the practical decision here?

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The English boy and I decide to try it, this throwing practicality to the wind and being together despite a six hour time difference. It’s a bigger adjustment than I expect: learning to meet people while having a boyfriend, still planning the day-to-day while also looking at upcoming flights to England, Skyping on terrible internet connections and interpreting messages without tone or facial expressions.

And—most impractically—I miss him every day.

Transportation Math (or Maths, if you’re British)

I’m heading to Vietnam next week, which means I have an important choice to make. The bus from Vientiene—a 30-hour killer that has been fondly nicknamed “The Bus Ride From Hell”—costs 50 USD, while the VietJet direct flight clocks in at a whopping 140 USD, including one checked bag.

Despite my dad’s casual suggestion to splurge for the flight, I wasn’t even considering it until I found myself asking to use the toilet in a stranger’s house for the second time within one week because of two four-hour minivan rides with no bathroom breaks. (I will never ever deprive anyone of the toilet ever again.)

Even with Valium widely available over the counter at any pharmacy, maybe 30 hours isn’t such a good idea.

Still, the price difference is A LOT by Southeast Asian standards. Here’s what 90 USD can buy me:

– 240 bottles of water
– 16 nights in a hostel, including breakfast
– 36 entrance fees into a waterfall
– 72 big Beer Laos
– 1.6 kayak day trips
– 7.5 Muay Thai lessons
– 2 overnight elephant treks
– 10 oil massages
– 59 days renting a bicycle
– 43 trips to the all-you-can-eat ice cream buffet in Mae Sot
– 93 big Siam Sato rice beers from 7-Eleven
– 37 bowls of green curry with rice from the Night Bazaar
– 198 bags of fresh pineapple from a street vendor
– 15 all-inclusive nights at the organic farm
– 1.8 two-day slowboat trips across the Thai-Laos border

But put another way: spending 90 USD to shave off about 25 hours of sitting on a bus means that I consider my time worth at least just over 3 USD an hour…

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Admissions and plans

“It’s said that you can never go home again, and it’s true enough, of course. But the opposite is also true. You must go back, and you always go back, and you can never go back, no matter how hard you try.”

I wrote a post titled “Things I’ll never say” and then, fittingly, chose not to post it.

Instead I decided that maybe I should say some things after all, and so, almost PostSecret-style, I finally chose to send him the words I’ve been holding back for so long.

I am missing more people than I should—people I never expected to miss when I was so busy worrying about leaving people behind.

But I think maybe that’s the point. To be uncomfortable. To realize who and what is important. And then to be bold, go out, and get it.

Next week I go to Thailand, where I am choosing to be bold and uncomfortable and go to Koh Pha Ngan alone for a Full Moon Party—which I hope will not be as awkward and lonely as solo Amsterdam—and then I am working on what’s important by traveling 200 km north of Bangkok to Utthaithani to live in a rural village and teach English at a local school.

And after that? There are so many things I want to do, but I am stifled by things like timelines and weather and money.

I could go north: South Korea to work at a language cafe, China and the Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia, all of Eastern Europe that I haven’t even gotten close to touching yet.

Or south: finally make it to Vietnam and Laos, lose myself in India, head back to Morocco to work at my favorite hostel.

And there’s a silent meditation retreat in Thailand and a social movement in Nepal and a youth monastery in France…

I can’t change my trip for these people I miss—even if I do decide that they’re important, they’ll have to wait. I’m not ready to call anywhere “home.”

And yet.